Public Record Policy
Of the Offices of Clinton County, Ohio
It is the policy of the Offices/Departments of Clinton County, Ohio that openness leads to a better informed citizenry, which leads to better government and better public policy. It is the policy of the Offices/Departments of Clinton County, Ohio to strictly adhere to the state’s Public Records Act. All exemptions to openness are to be construed in their narrowest sense and any denial of public records in response to a valid request must be accompanied by an explanation, including legal authority, as outlined in the Ohio Revised Code. If the request is in writing, the explanation must be in writing.
Section 1. Public records
The Offices/Departments of Clinton County, Ohio, in accordance with the Ohio Revised Code, defines records as including the following: Any document—paper, electronic (including, but not limited to, e-mail), or other format—that is created or received by, or comes under jurisdiction of the public office that documents the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, operations, or other activities of the office. All records of the Offices/Departments of Clinton County, Ohio are public unless they are specifically exempt from disclosure under the Ohio Revised Code.
It is the policy of the Offices/Departments of Clinton County, Ohio that, as required by Ohio law, records will be organized and maintained so that they are readily available for inspection and copying (See Section 4 for the e-mail record policy). Record retention schedules are to be updated regularly and posted prominently.
Section 2. Record requests
Each request for public records should be evaluated for a response using the following guidelines:
Although no specific language is required to make a request, the requestor must at least identify the records requested with sufficient clarity to allow the public office to identify, retrieve, and review the records. If it is not clear what records are being sought, the records custodian must contact the requestor for clarification, and should assist the requestor in revising the request by informing the requestor of the manner in which the office maintains its records.
The requestor does not have to put a records request in writing, and does not have to provide his or her identity or the intended use of the requested public record. It is the Offices’/Departments’ of Clinton County, Ohio general policy that this information is not to be requested.
Public records are to be available for inspection during regular business hours, with exception of published holidays. Public records must be made available for inspection promptly. Copies of public records must be made available within a reasonable period of time. “Prompt” and “reasonable” take into account the volume of the records requested; the proximity of the location where the records are stored; and the necessity for any legal review of the requested records.
Each request should be evaluated for an estimated length of time required to gather the records. Routine requests for records should be satisfied immediately if feasible to do so. Routine requests include, but are not limited to, meeting minutes (both in draft and final form), budgets, salary information, forms and applications, personnel rosters, etc. If fewer than 20 pages of copies are requested or if the records are readily available in an electronic format that can be e-mailed or downloaded easily, these copies should be made as quickly as the equipment allows. (If more than 20 copies are requested, an appointment should be made with the requestor for when the copies or computer files can be picked up.)
All requests for public records must either be satisfied (see Section 2.4) or be acknowledged
in writing by the Offices/Departments of Clinton County, Ohio within three (3) business days following the office’s receipt of the records request. If a request is deemed significantly beyond “routine”, such as seeking a voluminous number of copies or requiring extensive research, the acknowledgement must include the following:
Section 2.4a—An estimated number of business days it will take to satisfy the request.
Section 2.4b—An estimated cost if copies are requested.
Section 2.4c—Any items within the request that may be exempt from disclosure.
Any denial of public records requested must include an explanation, including legal authority. If portions of a record are public and portions are exempt, the exempt portions are to be redacted and the rest released. If there are redactions, each redaction must be accompanied by a supporting explanation, including legal authority.
Section 3 Cost for Public Records
Those seeking public records will be charged only the actual cost of making copies (or costs established by legal authorization).
Section 3.1 The charge for paper copies is 10 cents per copy per page (or cost allowable by legal authorization, such as state fees accessed).
Section 3.2 The charge for downloaded computer files to a compact disc is one dollar ($1) per disc.
Section 3.3 There is no charge for documents e-mailed (except for costs allowable by legal authorization, such as state fees).
Requestors may ask that documents be mailed to them. They will be charged the actual cost of the postage and mailing supplies.
Section 4. E-mail
Documents in electronic mail format are records as defined by the Ohio Revised Code when their content relates to the business of the office. E-mail is to be treated in the same fashion as records in other formats and should follow the same retention schedules.
Section 4.1—Records in private e-mail accounts used to conduct public business are subject to disclosure, and all employees or representatives of the Offices/Departments of Clinton County, Ohio are instructed to retain their e-mails that relate to public business (see Section 1 Public Records) and to copy them to their business e-mail accounts and/or to the office’s records custodian.
Section 4.2—The records custodian is to treat the e-mails from private accounts as records of the public office, filing them in the appropriate way, retaining them per established schedules and making them available for inspection and copying in accordance with the Public Records Act.
Section 5 Failure to respond to a public records request
The Offices/Departments of Clinton County, Ohio recognize the legal and non-legal consequences of failure to properly respond to a public records request. In addition to the distrust in government that failure to comply may cause, the Offices’/Departments’ of Clinton County, Ohio failure to comply with a request may result in a court ordering the Offices/Departments of Clinton County, Ohio to comply with the law and to pay the requestor attorney’s fees, court costs, and damages.